Monday, 8 February 2016

Patents: what lies at the heart of defibrillators?

Towards the latter part of month Sector Marketing Intelligence (SPi) posted an item on a Radiant Insights report on the size and scale of the world market for defibrillators (devices for delivering a therapeutic dose of electrical current to the heart in order to depolarise a critical mass of the heart muscle and, by doing so, terminating irregularity of heartbeat). The market potential for these devices is immense, as the title of the item ("Defibrillator Market Size Worth USD 15.75 Billion By 2020" indicates). But what is the spread of patent activity in this lucrative field -- and does it teach us anything?

The first figure, below, depicts the defibrillator patenting activity of the main performers in the field from 1987 to 2013.  Spanning a period of more than two and a half decades, the data shows a general crescendo until around 2000, followed by a plateau lasting around five years and a subsequent sustained decline.  The figure shows just the seven most active players in the field: Medtronic, Boston Scientific, St Jude Medical, Philips, Sorin, Biotronik and Greatbatch.  While the market is US-dominated, there is a notable European presence thanks to Philips, Sorin (now LivaNova, following a 2015 merger) and Biotronik. Notable players from Asia, though some way behind in terms of patenting activity, are Japan's Nihon Kohden, Opto Circuits (India) and CU Medical Systems from South Korea.

The second figure reflects the patent holdings of the same leading companies: it shows that, while patenting activity has declined, the size of their holdings has continued to grow -- though in a pronounced manner for Medtronic and Boston Scientific than for the rest.

The third figure gives some idea of the magnitude of the companies' current patent armouries, and of the lead which the "big three" -- Medtronic, Boston Scientific and St Jude Medical -- have over their competitors.  St Jude holds around as many patents as all the following pack combined.

What does all this show? First, it appears that defibrillators at present a mature and stable market and where there is a growing demand for products. The decline in patenting activity suggests that the leading companies are consolidating on their position and cashing in on past innovation rather than desperately seeking new breakthrough technologies. It also seems that this is an area in which the patent-holding advantage of the leading US and European manufacturers and innovators is not set to be immediately usurped by Chinese and other Asian patent filers.  

You can read the SPi article on defibrillators here.

1 comment:

  1. Can it be that the field is all played out now? Time to move on maybe.